10 Things to Do in Hoi An Vietnam
Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s best places to travel. But it’s also highly touristed which can wear on some travelers. This article hopes to help provide some more local things to do in Hoi An.
We’ve spent A LOT of time in Vietnam and Hoi An is definitely one of our favorite cities. On our first trip, we only spent a day and a half there. But we loved it so much we chose to go back again.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HOI AN IS THAT IT HAS TWO SIDES, AND FOR THIS REASON, SOME PEOPLE EITHER LOVE IT OR HATE IT. I JUST THINK YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO SEE IT THOUGH.
The first time I traveled to Hoi An, I loved it. For one, we spent the entire week prior, motorbiking through the rural villages of Central Vietnam.
This was truly an off-the-grid adventure so when we ended the trip in Hoi An, it was refreshing to have basic things like a heater, a hot shower, and essentially be in the comforts of the second world again.
On our second trip, I loved it again, but we also felt a little cynical about how commercialized Hoi An has become. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible place to see, but there’s a strong division between the locals and the facade of nice restaurants the locals put on for the tourists.
When I travel, I love to immerse myself in the local way of life, so seeing tons of tourist traps feels more like a faux cultural experience. Personally, I feel limiting myself to these kinds of experiences is a bit shallow particularly because Vietnam has such a rich culture and offers some of the best food on this planet. Therefore, you won’t find me recommending any burger joints, etc.
Here’s a list of Hoi An activities and tips that hopefully can guide you to some richer experiences. You’ll find there are plenty of local things to do in Hoi An
1. Indulge in the World’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich
One of my favorite things to do in Hoi An is to enjoy all the amazing food. If you’ve never had Vietnamese food, shame on you. Ok, just kidding, but seriously, it’ll change your life. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite cuisines on this planet, and one of my favorite foods on Earth is a Banh Mi sandwich.
The first time we went to Hoi An, we tried Banh Mi Phoung which has become insanely famous after appearing on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He proclaimed this the best sandwich he’s ever had and after that the rest is history.
Our first time at Banh Mi Phoung years ago was mind-blowing. We dreamed of the day we’d return. But sadly, when we returned, we felt like it just wasn’t as good as last time, nor as good as its competitor the “Banh Mi Queen” at Madam Khanh. I recommend trying both but we both thought Madam Khanh’s sandwich was a little better. Banh Mi Phoung can get a bit crazy too so if you’re not aggressive, you’ll find yourself getting passed over by guys hopping off their motorbikes to pick up a quick bite.
2. Walk the Streets Behind the Canal
The Hoai River is one of the most famous canals in the world. One of the best things to do in Hoi An is to walk the back streets along the canal, behind the pretty touristy restaurants. It’s here that you’ll see the locals, the neighborhood, and get a sense of REAL Vietnamese life.
We got a few odd looks, though as if we’d wandered outside the theme-park boundary. But it’s real. And if you go at night, the canal is beautifully lit up and the backstreets are a bit quieter and more interesting to observe life on this side of the world.
3. Rent a Bicycle
There are a ton of different Hoi An sightseeing opportunities for the average tourist and traveler, and one of the best ways to experience the culture is via bicycle. Depending on where you stay, some places will even rent out complimentary bicycles. But I personally love bicycling through the rice paddies and the backstreets in the villages and up toward Cua Dai beach.
Waking up, grabbing some breakfast, and starting the day off with a morning or afternoon bike ride through the local villages and the rice paddies is a truly special way to experience the city.
Viator offers an excellent countryside tour into rural Vietnam and to the temples of My Son.
Consider These Tours
4. Walk Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it’s an incredibly preserved ancient trading town from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The homes and colors of the streets are all indicative of the many cultural influences upon this tiny port town. The architecture and the streets are small and narrow so it’s fun to spend hours simply wandering the streets in and out of shops and cafes.
I would devote a day at least to simply exploring the town on foot or bicycle.
5. Take a Trip to My Son
If you haven’t been to Cambodia and seen the ruins at Angkor, here in My Son, you’ll find Champa ruins similar to those in Angkor.
My Son is quite close to Hoi An so you can reach My Son either on a bicycle or through driving. If you book the tour Adventure Bike Tour From Hoi An to My Son Temple, you’ll find that it also takes you to My Son. Also, check out the My Son & Marble Mountain Day Trip.
MAJOR TIP: DO NOT GO TO MY SON IN THE SUMMER.
Summers in Vietnam are brutal and although we went to My Son in March, it was still dreadfully hot. I can’t imagine the peak of summer. We were too miserable to really even enjoy it. Perhaps mornings or late afternoons are a better time to go in the middle of the summer if you must. But just be mindful of the heat. Vietnam gets hot.
6. Join the Hoi An Food Tour
We took the original Hoi An Food Tour and just loved it. Even though we were quite familiar with Vietnamese food, we still learned a lot from this tour. The local insight is great and you’ll be sure to fill up on some excellent food.
Another option is through Viator which offers a Food Tour By Night. We didn’t have a chance to take this one but next time we definitely will.
7. Tra Que Vegetable Village
Tra Que Vegetable Village is a must for anyone interested in truly absorbing the maximum amount of culture. One of the things I love the most about Vietnam is its simple and organic reliance upon the Earth. Its cuisine is so earthy and natural. Nothing is overly processed and the dishes emanate the most aromatic enticing smells. You can walk to the local market and find herbs that just don’t exist in the West.
Tra Que Vegetable Village offers amazing insight into a healthier and simpler lifestyle in Vietnam. At Tra Que Village, in addition to local farm tours, you can also take cooking classes.
8. Stay Local
Both of these places are totally different, but we enjoyed the second place a lot more simply because it felt more local. There are a lot of beautiful beach resorts in the area, but don’t be tempted to stay at a flashy place simply because it looks the nicest. All in all, we enjoyed the local experience better. And besides, the room at Ancient House was a lot more gorgeous. Although I’m tempted next time to check out the Nam Hai, but it’s a bit far away in Da Nang, although its reviews are outstanding.
9. Talk to Locals & Check Out Tailor Shops
10. Get Some Perspective
Honestly, one of the coolest ways to soak in Hoi An is to see it from above. If you’re a photographer, this is a no-brainer, but photographers are often experts at seeking out novel perspectives.
The dense network of buildings and homes makes for a fascinating display of color, textures, and contrasts. The best way to view the different perspectives of the city is to simply wander Old Town and to snag a seat at a second or third-floor restaurant.
Get Your Visa on Arrival
You can go ahead and pre-apply for your Visa on Arrival now. Vietnam-Visa is a reliable company to go with.
Hoi An Hotel Recommendations
What’s great about Vietnam is that you can stay at a super awesome hotel for like $50 a night.
Hoi An Ancient House Village Resort & Spa
Victoria Hotel Beach Resort & Spa
Hello! What was the motorbike tour you did in rural central vietnam? I would like to check that out! thanks!
Stephanie. Interesting list and beautiful photos. For me, Hoi An is the most beautiful place in Vietnam. Everyone should spend at least three days in it to get to know the different faces of this amazing city 🙂
Thank you! I agree. I love Hoi An, it’s such a wonderful place. 🙂
I went to Hoi An and discovered the beauty here. I go to Hoi An to Hue to visit Hai Van Pass and Lang Co, Hue one day, this is information for those who need to Hue and Hoi An.
I’m visiting Hoi An hopefully and this article really helps. Will be sure to check out some of that local stuff. Definitely renting a bicycle to explore the back alleys.
Great post and great ideas for Hoi An! This makes me want to return too as we only spent a short time there too on our first visit….now I’m also craving a Banh Mi sandwich mm!! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it!
What a wonderful post and very insightful.
I am planning my trip to Hoi An towards the end of July, do you recommend going then? I heard North and South of Vietnam will be unbearably hot and rainy but central Vietnam will be dryer.
I am so excited as I have never been 😀
I’ve never been in July, but I know Hoi An is on the coast so it may be a little cooler than the inland and it has the beach. This is typically the low season for tourists so this is a plus at least. However, generally all of Vietnam is super hot and humid in the summer. I’d plan on spending some time by the pool for sure. I think you can expect temperatures around 95 degrees F during the day. It will be rather hot and July is surely the hottest time of year to visit anywhere in Vietnam. Hope this helps!
Thank you Stephanie. Very helpful!
I’ll be visiting Hoi An next week (1st time in Vietnam). Is there enough to do for three days. Someone mentioned there isn’t. I would be better off in Da Nang. Any suggestions?
Glad you found it helpful! How exciting! I loved Hoi An, but I think it depends on how long your three days there are and what your travel style is.
I could personally spend 3 days there but four days may be a little too long for me. A day is long enough to explore the whole town, but some people like to go back the next day in a leisurely way too. Also, depending on the hotel you stay at, you may want to hang out by the pool too or take a walk through the rice fields, explore more etc. And there are bicycle tours and things to do as well. I think 3 days is a good amount of time to see everything at a more relaxed pace, but that depends on your travel style and what you really want to see. I’m not sure about Da Nang though, I haven’t spent much time there but it’s a fast growing city I think there could be some interesting stuff to see there too. But Da Nang is much larger and totally different than small town Hoi An so it depends on what pace you want too. You can definitely do Hoi An in two days too, assuming you have 2 full days and not 1.5. Hope this helps!
I just ate at Bahn Mi Phuong’s and it was like a gourmet Bahn mi. Thanks for the suggestion of the Bahn mi queen; I’ll check her out tomorrow. However I disagree with you about Vietnamese food not being processed. So much proceeded meat and veggie meat is everywhere! Sauces are filled with preservatives and additives. The flavors are simple, but the food is still highly processed- especially in the more remote villages.
I love your list. I always find new things to do even though I visit Hoi An once in 2 years.
On a side note, it is “Banh Mi Phuong , not “Banh Mi Phoung “.
Thanks for sharing, Stephanie! This is a great guiding post about things to do in Hoi An Ancient Town! After reading this pos, I got some idea what i should do with my friend in here!
Great! I’m so glad to hear!
Getting ready for a trip to Thailand and Vietnam later this year, so I’m super excited to try some of your suggestions out!
That sounds great! I love Thailand and Vietnam!! I hope you’ll be able to knock off a few items on my list! 🙂
Thank you Stephanie,
Following your post and we did not regret to stay at Ancient house resort, visit Tra Que village and have the most delicious banh my on the world. My mouth is watering with your picture. I did a food tour, but not the same with you. Viator also has motorbike food tour with local guides. All food in Hoi An are awesome.
Thank you for dropping a comment about your stay. I really loved the Ancient House Resort, I hope you did too! The tour your picked sounds wonderful. I miss all the amazing food there too!
Oh Stephanie, what a beautiful place! My wife and I are going to be in Hoi An for a bit in a couple of months and I’m happy you shared this. I recently watched a pretty cool video about My Son and seeing you write about it has furthered my desire to visit the ruins.
Just seeing that Banh Mi has made me hungry, and I just had breakfast! Can’t wait to go back to Vietnam and see more than just HCMC like our first time there. Thanks for sharing this, Stephanie. You take beautiful photos btw. Great stuff!
Thanks, Duke! It’s really such a beautiful city and it’s so photogenic too.
You can’t go wrong with either of the Banh Mi places I recommended! What I wouldn’t give to have one of those sandwiches now…. I think Central Vietnam offers so much, I’m glad to hear you’re going back to see more! HCMC is cool but this region is a little more traditional which is great.